Black Sheep Brewery

Black Sheep back in the black after positive year


The Black Sheep Brewery plc has moved back into the black after reporting sustainable growth in turnover and a significant increase in operating profit for the year to 31 March 2018.

In its annual results, the Masham, North Yorkshire-based brewery announced:

  • A 3.3% increase in turnover to £18.6m from £18m in 2017;
  • A strong increase in operating profit of £697,000, from a £437,000 operating loss in 2017 to a £260,000 profit in 2018;
  • A continued commitment to brewing innovation with the creation of seven* new beer brands in a variety of pack types, including the launch of its first-ever lager, 54° North;
  • In March 2018, 24% of the beer Black Sheep brewed came in brands it hadn’t thought about just two years ago;
  • National recognition across the beer and pub industries for its commitment to brewing in the UK, as Black Sheep was named The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Beer Champion 2017;
  • Plans to develop Black Sheep’s own £2m packaging facility for its bottled products, as well as the potential to diversify the company’s retail operation;
  • Paul Theakston, Black Sheep’s respected founder, will step down from the Board after the company’s AGM (27th September)

2017/18 was a year of progress for The Black Sheep Brewery plc as it posted a profit for the first time in five years, and an increase in revenues from the previous financial year.

The positive performance was on the back of a declining cask ale market, which fell by 7% year-on-year.

Paul Theakston, the pioneering founder of The Black Sheep Brewery plc and the original ‘Black Sheep’, has officially retired from the Board. Paul, who established the company in 1992, has been instrumental in the development of Black Sheep, which brews beers that are full of character and enjoyed throughout the world.

July 2017 marked a significant moment in Black Sheep’s 26-year history as it launched its first-ever small batch craft lager, 54° North, a brand created in homage to the brewery’s hometown of Masham, which sits on the 54th parallel.

Black Sheep’s brewing innovation and diversity continued with the creation of new products to the on and off-trade markets. This included securing national off-trade distribution for 54° North and scaling production up to bottled and canned format, while launching several new seasonal and bottled brands, including Flying Circus and award-winning beers Venus & Mars and Choc & Orange Stout.

The brewery’s reputation across the beer and pub industries was further strengthened as it was recognised by the BBPA with its prestigious ‘Beer Champion 2017’ annual award. Black Sheep also built on its Yorkshire roots as it became the official brewery of the Tour De Yorkshire – one of the UK’s premier sporting events – and renewed its sponsorship with Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), cementing its position as one of the region’s leading brewers.

The Board is actively looking into developing a sustainable packaging solution for its bottled products, while also exploring investment in Black Sheep’s retail presence, as strategies to deliver potential long-term growth.

Rob Theakston, Managing Director of The Black Sheep Brewery, said: “This has been another year of progress for Black Sheep as we demonstrated our ability to adapt to the challenging market and trading conditions to deliver positive results and an award-winning year. The day-to-day running of the brewery and the collaborative efforts of our team has contributed massively to this year’s success, executing the Board’s strategy to reshape and make Black Sheep even more competitive.

“We have continued to diversify the Black Sheep brand with the development of several new products to the on and off-trade that complements our existing, core range. The launch of 54° North, our first-ever lager, was one of many well-received new additions to the Black Sheep range.

“Our innovative brewing approach is helping to set Black Sheep up for the future as we continue to face a shrinking cask market, and this diversification will be crucial to our future success.”

Andy Slee, Chairman of The Black Sheep Brewery, said: “We have enjoyed a positive year, despite varying challenges facing brewers, including the disproportionate tax burden on the sector. Black Sheep currently pays five and a half times more in beer duty than eBay pays in UK corporation tax which strikes me as wholly unfair. Beer duty and business rates remain the issues focusing the sectors time at present, especially in dialogue with Government.

“I am delighted that we have been able to meet our targets and deliver encouraging results. Our priority remains building on this positivity and delivering a sustainable future.

“Third party packaging continues to be a high cash commitment and plans are in place to provide a cost-effective solution that has the potential to deliver long-term profitability for Black Sheep. We are also exploring the possible investment in developing our retail operation that could drive further growth, as the industry continues to diversify.

“The entire Board and I would like to wish our pioneering Founder Paul Theakston all the very best in his well-earned retirement. Paul has overseen the development of this iconic brewery over the last 26 years and been instrumental in making Black Sheep a household name that is exported throughout the world. His sons, Rob and Jo, the wider management team and the Board will continue to uphold the values and legacy he has left behind, producing great Yorkshire beers day-in-day-out.”



CONTACT: Jamie Collis/Stuart Nicholls on 01325 363436

Editor’s Notes:

*Products launched by Black Sheep between 31 March 2017 and 31 March 2018:

  • 54° North small batch lager in five pack variations
  • Choc & Orange Stout cask ale in two pack variations
  • Flying Circus seasonal cask ale in two pack variations
  • Legacy 25 limited edition 750ml bottle
  • Milk Stout cask ale in two pack variations
  • Rye Mild seasonal cask ale
  • Venus & Mars cask ale in two pack variations
  • A new 5L Mini Keg of Black Sheep Best Bitter
  • Three new pack variations of My Generation

The Black Sheep Brewery is one of British brewing’s most famous stories and has grown from humble beginnings to become a multi-award winning company, with its beers enjoyed around the world.

Black Sheep has grown to become one of Yorkshire’s most recognised brands, and was unveiled as the official brewery of the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire and is the official brewery of Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC).

In the past 12 months, Black Sheep has won a number of prestigious awards, including:

  • The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) National Independent Beer Awards 2018 – Glug M’Glug – Small Pack Gold Champion in the Porters, Stouts, Old Ales, Strong Milds & Strong Brown Ales category
  • The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Beer Champion 2017
  • World Beer Awards – Choc & Orange Stout – Gold Award
  • World Beer Awards – Riggwelter – Gold Award
  • World Beer Awards – Black Sheep Ale – Silver Award
  • World Beer Awards – My Generation – Bronze Award

Based in Masham, in the heart of North Yorkshire, Black Sheep brewed its first beer in 1992 after being built up by Paul Theakston, whose family had brewed in the area for six generations.

In a world of ever-increasing bland, mass-produced beer, Paul saw an opportunity to return to what his family had done best since 1827, making real beer in the time-honoured fashion.

An old maltings building, once part of Lightfoot's Brewery, became the Brewery’s home. This landmark building, which stands high over the banks of the Ure, had fallen in to disrepair as years of neglect as a semi-redundant grainstore had taken its toll. Paul assembled a small team around him to fight the rats and build a traditional country brewery.

The Visitor Centre, at the site of the iconic brewery, has grown to become an award-winning attraction for visitors to Yorkshire, with tens of thousands of people flocking to Masham each year.

The Black Sheep name derived from Masham’s association with sheep, but ‘Sheep Brewery’ didn’t quite sound right, so with a little creativity from Paul’s wife, the Black Sheep Brewery was born - a name that sat well with the area, spoke volumes about the business’ maverick attitude to the multi-nationals seeking to dominate the brewing industry and captured the essence of the family struggle that led to its birth.

Black Sheep’s beers are full of character derived from the best possible brewing materials, plenty of time and patience in the brewing and its very special Yorkshire Square fermenters.

Black Sheep Best Bitter is now one of the best-selling cask session beers in the UK and many of its creative brews, over the course of its 25-year history, have collected numerous awards – ranging from Black Sheep’s traditional ales to its up and coming craft beers.

2017 marked the launch of Black Sheep Brewery’s first lager, 54 Degrees North, created in homage to its hometown of Masham, which sits on 54’ 13’ 24” N; 1’ 39’ 20” W longitude and latitude lines, as the company embarks on an adventurous new chapter in its distinguished history.


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(L-R) Jo and Rob Theakston toast a positive year for Black Sheep Brewery
(L-R) Jo and Rob Theakston toast a positive year for Black Sheep Brewery
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(L-R) Jo and Rob Theakston toast a positive year for Black Sheep Brewery
(L-R) Jo and Rob Theakston toast a positive year for Black Sheep Brewery
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